These photos show what's happening below the surface in synchronised swimming

Japan synchronised swimmingNBCJapan’s synchronised swimming team competes in Rio.

Above the surface of the water, synchronised swimmers display smiling faces, graceful legs, and pointed toes.

Underwater, they’re working harder than any athlete at the Olympic games.

They launch teammates out of the water and through the air. They suspend themselves upside down and contort their bodies into circus-esque poses without ever touching the bottom of the pool. And, unlike hammer throwers or weightlifters who grimace their way through feats of athleticism, synchronised swimmers perform their gruelling routines without showing fatigue.

In other words: Don’t be fooled when synchronised swimmers make the sport look easy — it’s not.

During synchronised swimming competition in Rio, NBC set up a split-screen camera that showed viewers the action above and below the water at the same time. Here are a few shots from the competitors’ routines:

Members of team Italy extend their legs out of the pool...

NBC

...with a boost from the swimmers pushing upward.

NBC

Japan's swimmers made this handstand look effortless.

NBC

But it took all their combined strength to pull off.

NBC

Team Australia smiles for the crowd.

NBC

At the same time, they fight to stay afloat.

NBC

A Brazilian swimmer flies through the air...

NBC

...thanks to the teammates who launched her.

NBC

Team Japan's swimmers perform an upside down split.

NBC

You can see their arms churning the water below the surface.

NBC

Swimmers from Ukraine emote during their routine.

NBC

They stay upright using a leg kick called the eggbeater.

NBC

Source: Team USA

The judges see a perfect leg formation from Team Brazil.

NBC

They don't see the effort behind it.

NBC

Japan's swimmers show off their flexibility.

NBC

You can see just how close together they are in the underwater view.

NBC

It looks like the swimmer in the handstand is being held up by just one person.

NBC

In reality, it's a team effort.

NBC

Team Ukraine forms a lattice of extended legs.

NBC

And it's definitely not as simple as it looks.

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